When we give a tour in the Trading Post, Perry shows the guests the store and gives them a little speech about our area. He always talks about how lucky he is to come to the Trading Post each day and see all of the beautiful things the artists from this area make. I never really think about it because most of the days I am at work I am thinking about how lucky I would be if I was somewhere else. However, when you take a moment and look at all those pieces of handmade art that fill our showcases you can't help but be awed.
Many times we don't see the hours and the technical skills needed to make certain pieces of art. That is not the point of art. The Native American artists of this area want you to see the beauty of the work, not the process. Art in the Four Corners is a lot like a handshake. It is the way that a people that who have lived here for centuries present themselves and their their culture. No one really knows how long the Zuni people have been here, but it was long before any European showed up. That is why Zuni inlay can be so fascinating, because it reveals a culture much older than our American one.
Zuni artists Nancy & Ruddell Laconsello make some of the best quality Zuni inlay you will find. Many of their pieces are filled with Zuni figures, but their most popular works are filled with inlay animals and birds. Every couple of years Perry begins a massive art project with the Laconsellos' that can take up to a year to complete. The results of these efforts has given the Trading Post two of the most magnificent belts we have ever had, or that have ever been created using Zuni inlay techniques.
When you pick up the belt you definitely see the beauty, a breathtaking beauty. What you don't see is the two pieces of silver need for each piece. How Ruddell has to skillfully draw his animal on the silver and then painstakingly cut out the design. Then how he lays the top piece onto the bottom and perfectly solders them together. That is only the beginning, because now Nancy has to fill that overlay design with the right colored stones and perfect detail to bring the animals to life. Then choosing the separating pieces and making each with it's own Zuni inlay inspired design. It is not only the technical detail, but also knowing the natural environment of the animal and realizing these all can be found in New Mexico.
We have been fortunate enough to not only get the animal Zuni inlay concho belt, but to also have one that is filled with birds. Each of these two belts represent the best work from these award winning Zuni inlay artists. They have been kind enough to sit down with us for an interview that you should read.